The possibility of setting up a dog pound in Thiruvananthapuram is not even being considered.
Who would have thought that man’s best friend would turn into a poster child of fear? Rotting food waste in the streets has allowed stray dogs to multiply alarmingly in the city over the past couple of years.
Their sheer numbers and growls and woofs and chasing antics make people jittery. Without an adequate number of veterinary surgeons to carry out the animal birth control (ABC) programme, the Corporation is caught in a quandary.
The civic body’s attempts to vaccinate stray dogs against rabies and carry out sterilisation surgeries have died premature deaths after promising starts. Unless these are carried out systematically and daily, citizens will have to face an ever increasing number of stray canines.
For the Corporation staff, the most obvious, yet apparently elusive, solution is to appoint more doctors and surgical assistants to form a veterinary cell devoted to this task. But they say their pleas are yet to be acknowledged and an additional doctor transferred here recently is on a temporary posting. This dims the chance for consistency in carrying out the programme.
“There is no point in shifting the blame between the Corporation and the government. Ideally, if they give us additional staff, we simply have to follow through. If doctors come and go, the entire routine we have managed to build up gets dismantled again,” S. Pushpalatha, Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Health of the Corporation, says. She is now considering submitting a proposal to the Urban Affairs Minister for funds to appoint doctors on contract. During a previous Corporation Council session, Ms. Pushpalatha moved a resolution requesting for four doctors and two assistants.
One plan of action is to carry out an anti-rabies vaccination drive to eradicate the infection in the city, P.S. Bijulal, Corporation Veterinarian, says. Considering that cases of rabies are still reported, if animals can be caught and administered the vaccine on the spot, the risk of this fatal infection can eventually be eliminated.
“We had carried this out on 117 dogs, but that is when the vehicle went back into the garage because of a battery complaint,” he says. So the dearth of vehicles also appears to be hampering the process.
Dr. Bijulal says that if a mobile ambulance is rolled out, the dogs can be vaccinated on the spot and marked with blue collars.
The blue-collared canines will then need to sterilised. By the time the first phase of vaccination is carried out on the estimated 40,000 dogs in the city, the administrative processes will have been completed and more vets will be ready to get the sterilisation going, he says. At present, there are two doctors (one occupied with the paperwork and issues concerning the slaughterhouse as well) and one dog-catcher. The two surgeons have been, on average, treating three dogs a day, woefully inadequate if the city hopes to see a reduction in their numbers. The possibility of setting up a dog pound is not even being considered, Ms. Pushpalatha says.
Mayor K. Chandrika criticises the State government for not paying heed to any issue, citing instances of general staff transfers and dismissal of officials that has shaken the administrative processes of the institution.
A senior official of the Animal Husbandry Department told The Hindu that the Corporation was within its rights to chart out a timetable stipulating that doctors stationed at the 15 veterinary dispensaries here and the District Veterinary Centre spend a day every two weeks doing the sterilisation.
Dr. Bijulal counters that suggestion saying that the main reason this system was halted two years ago was because these veterinarians were put under enormous pressure to manage both activities at their respective centres and to travel to the Pettah hospital for sterilisation surgeries. They were not granted any remuneration for the added responsibility, he says.
He emphasises that a fixed team, including two who could be trained in handling the laparoscopic equipment lying idle in the hospital, can make a difference. Until then, all they can do is move at a snail’s pace.